Top 10 sports topics of 2016

The football team went to a bowl game, the crew team got a new coach, and a Temple student ran in the Olympics.

The football team celebrates its second consecutive division title. The Owls beat East Carolina 37-10 on Nov. 26. | HOJUN YU FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

1. Football coach Matt Rhule leaves; Geoff Collins hired

Three days after the football team won the American Athletic Conference championship, football coach Matt Rhule was headed out the door. Rhule accepted the head coaching job at Baylor University, ending his Temple career with a 28-24 record after four seasons. On Dec. 14, Temple hired University of Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to be its next head coach.

2. Football team wins conference championship

After starting the year 3-3, the Owls won their last six games of the regular season to win the the East division and earn a trip to back-to-back American Athletic Conference Championship games. Temple headed to Annapolis, Maryland on Dec. 3 to face Navy, which was ranked No. 19 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. Temple routed the Midshipmen 34-10 to win its first conference championship since 1967. The win also put Temple in the Top 25 rankings for the second year in a row.

3. On-campus stadium talk continues

Plans for an on-campus stadium emerged in 2015 and continued in the new year. The Board of Trustees approved funding for a study into the design and environmental impact of an on-campus football stadium in February. In March, Temple selected Moody Nolan as the main architect for the proposed stadium. The BOT approved an additional $250,000 for the stadium feasibility study in July. During the year, The Temple News talked to incoming football recruits to garner their thoughts about a possible on-campus stadium and also compared Temple’s proposed stadium to others around the country. For now, Temple will continue to play its home games at Lincoln Financial Field. On Dec. 2, the university signed an option to continue playing its home games at the Linc through the 2018 season.

4. Owls play in Military Bowl

When Temple faced Wake Forest University in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland on Dec. 27, the Owls had a shot to earn the most wins in program history. Interim head coach Ed Foley prepared Temple for the game without most of the Owls’ defensive staff after former coach Matt Rhule brought coaches with him to Baylor. A large Temple crowd traveled to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the game. The announced attendance was 26,656. Temple fell behind 31-7 and despite a strong second half, the Owls couldn’t complete the comeback. Temple lost to the Demon Deacons 34-26 to end the season 10-4 for the second year in a row.

5. Men’s basketball goes to NCAA Tournament

Temple started its season 5-5 and looked headed for another absence from the NCAA tournament after being snubbed the year before. Instead, the Owls knocked off three nationally ranked teams, which included upsetting undefeated Southern Methodist 89-80 on Jan. 24 at the Liacouras Center, and won the American Athletic Conference regular season title. Temple’s strong finish sent the Owls to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. The Owls earned a No. 10 seed and played the University of Iowa in Brooklyn, New York in the first round. Iowa’s Adam Woodbury tipped in a rebound in overtime to end Temple’s season with a 72-70 loss in the first round.

6. Gavin White retires as crew coach; Brian Perkins named as successor

Gavin White spent 37 years as the head coach at Temple. He was only the second crew coach in program history. White announced his retirement in the week leading up to the Dad Vail Regatta in May. The varsity 8 boat medaled for the first time in eight years at the event on May 14. The university hired Brian Perkins as it new crew coach in June. Perkins rowed for White at Temple from 1988-1992 and had been White’s assistant coach and head recruiter for the past six years.

7. Temple student runs in Olympics

Temple senior kinesiology major Ajee’ Wilson earned a spot in the Olympics when she finished second in the 800-meter at the U.S. Olympic trials in July. Wilson traveled to Rio de Janeiro in August to compete in the Olympics. She advanced to the semifinals but finished third in her heat and failed to qualify for the 800 finals. She shared her experience with The Temple News when she arrived back on campus in the fall.

8. The Temple Sports Complex opens

The Temple Sports Complex was the university’s $22 million project at the former site of William Penn High School. It consists of two turf fields, an outdoor track and an 11,000 square foot building for locker rooms, coaches’ offices and training rooms. The men’s and women’s soccer teams and field hockey team all competed at the complex during their falls seasons. The move from the Ambler Sports Complex to the new facility attracted large crowds for the men’s soccer team.

9. Temple mentioned in Big 12 Conference expansion talk

In July, the Big 12 Conference announced the league was considering teams for possible expansion. Temple was one of 20 schools the Big 12 considered to join the conference. The list included 11 teams from the American Athletic Conference. Temple was reportedly one of 12 schools to interview with the Big 12. The university was removed from consideration in early September, and the Big 12 eventually decided against expanding its 10-team conference.

10. Blanca Fernandez ends career as an All-American

Blanca Fernandez only spent two years with the Owls’ track & field program, but she went down as one of the best athletes in Temple history. Her last race was at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Fernandez finished 11th in the 5,000-meter to earn second team All-American honors in her last race as an Owl.

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